ROME—Italian student Giulio Regeni moved to Cairo in September 2015 to research Egypt’s independent labor unions for his Ph.D. thesis at Cambridge University. Months later, the 28-year-old was found dead on the side of a highway, bearing cigarette burns, broken teeth and fractured bones.
Italian prosecutors last week pressed charges against four members of Egypt’s security forces over Mr. Regeni’s abduction, torture and death as they laid out the most detailed case to date against the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, for whom it has become a source of severe international embarrassment.
It was the first full judicial investigation into Egyptian security services’ alleged use of secret detention, an abuse that human-rights groups say thousands of Egyptians have suffered. Police and security officers rarely face charges in Egypt over torture and deaths in custody, creating what rights groups say is a climate of impunity.
“This is going to be an inspection of this machine that commits disappearances and torture, highlighting how it functions,” said Mohamed Lotfy, director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, a nongovernmental rights group that represents the Regeni family in Egypt. “They didn’t invent a new machine for Giulio. They used the tools and practices that they used on so many Egyptians,” Mr. Lotfy said.
What emerges from witness testimony, phone records and other evidence is a story of betrayal, deception and brutality, and offers a rare look inside the workings of Egypt’s vast security state. This account of Mr. Regeni’s fate is based on interviews, prosecutor statements and court documents.